Guest Post for Laura Childs, New York Times bestselling author of “Eggs on Ice”


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9780425281727Great Covers Sell a Book.

Whoever said “Don’t judge a book by its cover” was so wrong it’s unbelievable. Here’s the thing. I come from an advertising/marketing background. And books – just like boxes of cereal, jars of peanut butter, and even board games – are package goods. So, yes, books most definitely are judged by their covers.

A good cover can hint at mystery, suspense, romance, or humor. Colors, typography, and artwork can also be carefully designed and arranged to boldly suggest a book’s contents.

My publisher, Penguin Random House, happens to do fantastic covers for all the books in my three series. And they’ve always been kind enough to allow me a huge amount of input. Here’s how it works: I start with the title of my book which generally suggests a cover theme. Then I scan the Internet for what I call “source images,” just random images I can send to the art directors to convey my thoughts and ideas.

gotta write crazy chicken teapotEarly on, I sent them an image of a wacky little chicken teapot. This has since been modified to become a kind of “bug” or logo for all my Cackleberry Club covers. This chicken teapot has popped up on the Cackleberry Club’s café counter, been ringed with pumpkins at their Halloween festival, and has peeked out of a flower-laden gazebo.

Take for example “Eggs on Ice,” my brand new Cackleberry Club Mystery. Here the little chicken teapot sits on a snow-covered table outside the Cackleberry Club cafe. I had found several source images that showed a tea table covered in snow and our cover idea simply spun off from there.

My book covers are great fun in that they convey the charm of the old-fashioned Cackleberry Club, yet they don’t rule out the fact that I include plenty of action that includes car chases, fires, explosions, ghostly specters, romance, and crazy BFF capers.

In fact, here’s the Cliff’s Notes on “Eggs on Ice,” my newest book:

As the Kindred Players hold their first dress rehearsal for A Christmas Carol, a ghost wafts onstage and murders the star of the show. Shocked from her perch in the wings, Suzanne Dietz, co-owner of the Cackleberry Club, chases this spooky specter through the shadowy backstage of the theatre, but loses him when he escapes into a snowstorm. Feeling angry and threatened, Suzanne honchos her own shadow investigation and ends up juggling multiple suspects that include the mayor of small town Kindred, a strange visiting minister, a former female employee of the victim, and the play’s director. True to character, Suzanne also deals with holiday tea parties, a second murder, a devastating fire, and a terrifying car crash – all while maintaining a sizzling romance with the town doctor. “Eggs on Ice” offers laugh-out-loud humor, cozy moments, and recipes that include Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Pork, Elvis French Toast, Pumpkin Breakfast Casserole, and Church Basement Funeral Bars.

Kind of fun, huh? Thanks for reading this blog post and have a terrific holiday!




Laura Childs is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of the Scrapbooking Mysteries, Tea Shop Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club MysteriesRecently, Book Riot named her mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.” In her previous life, Laura was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.





Three Questions with Laura Bradford, author of Just Plain Murder

9780440000402If you love Amish mysteries, check out Laura Bradford’s novels.

As a child, Laura Bradford fell in love with writing over a stack of blank paper, a box of crayons, and a freshly sharpened number two pencil. From that moment forward, she never wanted to do or be anything else. Today, Laura is the national bestselling author of several mystery series, including the Amish Mysteries, the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, the Jenkins & Burns Mysteries, and the Tobi Tobias Mystery Series. Her first women’s fiction novel, Portrait of a Sister, is now available.

Laura is a former Agatha Award nominee, and the recipient of an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. A graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, Laura enjoys making memories with her family, baking, and being an advocate for those living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Now for those promised questions:

1)Why did you choose the Amish for a cozy mystery series?

I grew up reading (and re-reading) the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. On the Banks of Plum Creek was my favorite. I think I’ve read that book nearly two dozen times. I found Laura’s lifestyle so appealing.

To me, the Amish live very much as people did in the mid to late 1800’s. Only with the Amish, they’re living like that inside a modern world. I find that fascinating on so many levels.

As for why a cozy series? That’s easy. The Amish, sadly, are perfect victims of crime in everything from their reluctance to elicit help from law enforcement to their refusal to take pictures of their loved ones. Toss in the fact many still keep large sums of money in their home and, well, they’re also ripe for burglaries and home invasions. And their distaste for modern forms of communication outside their work environment (cell phones, internet) offers a more realistic reason for help not to be a “phone call away.”

  • Just Plain Murder is the 6th book in this popular series. How did this particular story come to be?

Every time I’m getting ready to write a new book in this series, I head to Lancaster County (the setting for this series) for a few days. While I’m there, I immerse myself in all things Amish. I drive the countryside, I take tours that enable me time inside Amish businesses and homes, and I keep my eyes and ears open for that one tidbit that’ll play into the new book if in no other reason than realistic background.

The Amish, by their very nature, are almost ritualistic in the fact that they have a way of doing things that works for them and continues on, generation after generation. In Lancaster County, weddings take place after the harvest and most always on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While some might see such days as unusual for a wedding, they make perfect sense for the Amish who see the choice as a logistical necessity (allowing the “off” days to be for transporting of the benches via the bench wagon).  I enjoy working such things into the fabric of each book for realism as well as education.

Just Plain Murder weaves in a different staple of the Amish community: the selection of ministers by lot. Literally.  When a church district is in need of a new minister, members recommend names to the bishop. Those who have been recommended are brought together and each given a hymn book to open. One of those hymn books has a slip of paper with scripture written on it. The person who drew that hymn book (and, therefore, that slip of paper) is a new minister…for life.  Interesting, isn’t it?

Those are the kinds of gems that jump start my writer brain—either in terms of setting, side stories, or the main plot.  Add in my existing characters (like Detective Jakob Fisher—the main focus of this particular book) and the relationships they have and well, I’d be hard pressed not to come up with a fun story for my readers.

  • What’s next for this series?

I’m thrilled to share that there will be 7thbook (Christmas-themed) in my Amish Mysteries, as well!  Look for that to come out in the fourth quarter of 2019.


Laura Bradford is the national bestselling author of the Amish Mysteries, as well as the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, and the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries (the latter written as Elizabeth Lynn Casey). Earlier this year, Laura debuted her first women’s fiction novel, Portrait of a Sister. The book landed several impressive book club picks including Delilah (of radio Delilah) and Southern Lady Magazine. Her next women’s fiction novel, A Daughter’s Truth, will release in 2019. To learn more about Laura and her books, visit her website:  On Facebook? So is Laura:






James Pankow Speaks About His Love Of Music And A Band Named Chicago


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Lee Loughnane, Keith Howland, Robert Lamm, Ray Herrmann, Jimmy Pankow, Ramon “Ray” Ysla, Brett Simons, Wally Reyes, Jr., Lou Pardini and Neil Donell.

Lifestyles Editor

Reprinted from the Journal & Topics Newspapers

James Pankow is at home in Nashville. He recently gave away his daughter’s hand in marriage, He’s totally excited and has good reason to be. But now he is reflecting on his long career. For Pankow and his bandmates, the norm is over 100 shows a year on the road.

For 51 years, Pankow has been immersed in an amazing career with the band Chicago.  As a founding member, trombonist, arranger and composer, he wrote many of their hit songs and created brass arrangements which became a signature of the band. Original Chicago band members include himself, Walt Parazaider (reeds, flute), Robert Lamm (keyboards, vocals), Lee Loughnane (trumpet, vocals), the late Terry Kath, (guitar, vocals), Peter Cetera (bass, vocals) and Danny Seraphine (drums). The band continues with the current generation of talented musicians who are determined to keep the spirit of Chicago alive.

Pankow grew up in Park Ridge and can still recall his mom having a chocolate soda at the Sugar Bowl in Des Plaines and how Fr. George Wiskirchen at Notre Dame High School in Niles kindled his passion for music. For four years, Pankow was a member of the Melodons, the high school jazz band, under the director of Fr. Wiskirchen, where for the first time, he experienced a form of music that really made a difference. While a senior, he auditioned with his trombone for a music scholarship at Quincy College in Quincy, IL.

“Fr. Wiskirchen hailed from Quincy and it was he who recommended that I audition for the scholarship,” explained Pankow. “I qualified for the scholarship with my horn, and it was so beneficial, being one of nine children and eliminating the burden of tuition from my parents.”

“I’ll always look back at my time at Notre Dame with Fr. Wiskirchen as a key springboard to this long career and where the seed was truly planted,” he added. “I’ll always be grateful for that experience.”

He entered college as a music education major, but in the course of that year, upper class students noted his ability on the trombone and suggested he focus on performing rather than teaching.

After his freshman year, he returned to Chicago and formed his own band and began to build a reputation and create an income stream.

He called Charlie Winking at Quincy and told him that he was not returning because he was becoming established in Chicago as a musician and a performer. Charlie understood.

He then enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago which allowed him to continue his studies as well as make money with his trombone.

While at DePaul, he met Walt Parazaider and Lee Loughnane.  Parazaider was in another band with Kath and Seraphine. Parazaider became the conduit that introduced the idea of forming a rock band with horns.

He proposed the idea to Pankow and Loughnane, then proposed the idea to Lamm, who he met at a club in Chicago. They all met at Parazaider’s apartment and agreed to devote all their time and energy to making this idea a reality.

They hired an agent who gave them the name, “The Big Thing,” and began working the club circuit in Chicago and throughout the Midwest.

The year was 1967, and soul music, R&B and the Beatles were the Top 40, and they did covers of all of those hits in the nightclubs.  Ultimately, they began to introduce their own music into the sets in the clubs, but because people only wanted Top 40, they began to get fired from one club after another.

It became obvious that club owners and their patrons had no interest in their original music. So they decided to go to Los Angeles, where the record companies were located and people might have a more open mind.

They became the house band at the Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip where Jimi Hendrix happened to hear them and was so impressed, he hired them as the opening act on his national tour.

Their exposure at the Whisky also got them a record deal with Columbia Records, and in January of 1969, they went to New York and recorded their first album, Chicago Transit Authority.

The rest is history.

Current Chicago band members are Pankow, Lamm, Loughnane, Keith Howland, Lou Pardini, Ray Herrmann, Walfredo Reyes, Jr., Neil Donell, Brett Simons and Ramon Yslas.

The band is already filling up next year’s calendar, which is proving to be yet another busy touring season, once again selling out venues for many fans who still can’t get enough.

In terms of their long friendships within the band, Pankow remarked “We respect each other, and we treat life like a marriage, where communication and respect are key. We communicate constantly and evolve musically. We live two lives: the one that’s public and the one that’s private, and we try to keep a balance.”

Just the facts:

Chicago was inducted into the 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This was their first nomination. They’ve been eligible since 1994. A long time coming!

Chicago’s first album, “Chicago Transit Authority,” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014, and the band performed on the Grammy stage for the first time that year.

Robert Lamm and James Pankow have become inductees of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017. They wrote mega-hits such as, “25 or 6 to 4,” “Saturday In The Park,” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” “Make Me Smile,” and many others.

Chicago’s newest record of new studio tracks, “NOW” CHICAGO XXXVI, was released on Frontiers Records. It includes 11 brand new songs, recorded on the road.

Chicago’s lifetime achievements include two Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, Founding Artists of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Chicago street dedicated in their honor, and keys to and proclamations from an impressive list of U.S. cities. Record sales top the 100,000,000 mark, and include 21 Top 10 singles, 5 consecutive Number One albums, 11 Number One singles and 5 Gold singles. 25 of their 36 albums have been certified platinum, and the band has a total of 47 gold and platinum awards.

Playing Fair with Readers by Kate Carlisle


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Kate Carlisle

When writing fiction, the writer always knows more than she shares with her reader. The unknown is what makes a story compelling. A writer carefully doles out information, one bite at a time.

As a mystery writer, the one thing I absolutely cannot, must not, will not do is cheat. I have to play fair with my readers! You pick up a mystery novel because you want to try to solve the crime, and it’s my duty to make that possible.

Not easy. . . but possible.

I’m Kate Carlisle, and I write two ongoing mystery series, The Bibliophile Mysteries and The Fixer-Upper Mysteries. (You may recognize the latter from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.) My latest book is A Wrench in the Works, and I bet you can guess from the title which series it’s in.

By the time the murderer’s identity is revealed, you must have all of the information you need to identify the killer. It’s fine if you say, “How did I miss that?” after making a connection you didn’t make before—but only if you had all of the information you needed to be able to  make that connection. I can’t spring something on you in the final scene. I can’t suddenly reveal that the murderer is someone who wasn’t even a suspect. Characters can lie, but I, as the author, must be truthful.


I create several viable suspects, each with a strong motive for doing the deadly deed. Mystery readers are incredibly smart; you pay attention to the minutest of details. I love that! It means that I can toy with you. I can plant red herrings (clues that lead you in the wrong direction) and hide the real clues in plain sight. And then it’s up to you to weigh all of the evidence to see if you can figure out whodunit before the answer is revealed.

In A Wrench in the Works, home contractor Shannon Hammer’s younger sister returns to Lighthouse Cove with a film crew in tow. Chloe left Lighthouse Cove years ago under mysterious circumstances. She took her construction skills to Hollywood, where she’s the star of a home renovation show. The show’s producer has such a toxic personality that several local homeowners and almost all the film crew members have good reason for wanting her dead—especially Chloe.

Crowned and Modering

My favorite compliment from readers is that I kept them guessing right until the end, and I think that happens because of the work I put into creating suspects with truly powerful motives for murder. The police aren’t wrong to suspect Chloe, but Shannon knows her sister is innocent and will do whatever it takes to save her from a life behind bars.

When you’re reading a mystery novel, do you read along and just try to remember clues as you go? Or do you take notes and really try to puzzle out who is the killer? Do you stop before you reach the end and think of all the suspects?


Lights! Camera! Homicide! Contractor Shannon Hammer must sift through the suspects when a popular TV show comes to Lighthouse Cove and brings murder with it…

A wrench in the worksShannon Hammer’s younger sister Chloe left Lighthouse Cove after high school to make it big in Hollywood. And she did it! Chloe is the co-host of a popular home repair show on the Home Builders Network. Now, after ten years, she has returned to their quaint, coastal hometown to film several shows featuring her sister Shannon, along with some special mini-segments on Victorian style and design.

But Shannon quickly realizes that things are not exactly blissful in TV land. Bree, the executive producer of the show, has a knack for stirring up sticky situations and when she’s found dead, Chloe and the entire crew are under suspicion. During the investigation, Shannon, her thriller-writer boyfriend Mac, and their crime-solving friends unearth the real reason Chloe left home. Is that ten-year-old secret connected to Bree’s death? And can Shannon track down the real killer before her beloved sister becomes the next victim?


An interview with Peter Nolan – broadcast journalist 1960s – 1980s


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Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan was an experienced broadcast journalist from 1960s to the ‘80s. Perceived as a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is newsman, he began in radio in Niagara Falls back in 1963, then for WKBN-TV and radio in Youngstown, Ohio before settling in the Windy City in 1968. He worked for WMAQ-TV (channel 5) and WBBM-TV (channel 2). He’s still fond of those years.

Nolan, a Glenview resident since 1990, has been named a recipient of a 2019 Silver Circle Award, presented by the Chicago television industry. He is one of 11 inductees who will be honored by the Midwest Chapter of the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences at a dinner in Chicago on May 3, 2019. His first published book, “CAMPAIGN! The 1983 Election that Rocked Chicago” was published in 2012 by Amika Press of Northfield. His second book, “News Stories: A Memoir,” is a collection of his television news scripts, recently published by Gatekeeper Press, Columbus, Ohio. One can easily consider this book a way of tapping into life during the Vietnam era and later to a time of social unrest, gender wars, hard-fought equality, the struggles of men and women, crime and violence, and anything else that caught his eye

From his home he tells the Journal, “I had covered a lot of stories and had submitted one to ‘Big Muddy,’ which is a Southeast Missouri State University Press journal. When it was published, I wanted to see my stories published in book form,” said Nolan. He said they were stored in boxes in his garage for years. He wanted to share those stories with his grandchildren so they would know that he was a broadcast journalist during a dynamic period in the nation’s history, at a time when television was a new technology. The biggest, most visible job he had was delivering a nightly commentary on the 10 p.m. news on Channel 5 in Chicago from 1978 to 1981.

Nolan touched upon a few of his book’s stories. Naturally, readers will be interested in the time when John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, and his wife, Jackie, lived in the White House, in an almost Camelot setting. Nolan included this unforgettable glimpse into one of many sad days to come for our nation in his story, “Death of a President.”

In 1963, he was a newsman in Niagara Falls working at WHLD radio station, that featured music and news during the morning and afternoon drive time. Religious and foreign language shows would follow. Nolan covered the police beat, morning newscasts, city hall, criminal courts, and school board and city council meetings at night. On Friday, Nov. 22, after a short newcast at 12:30 p.m., he headed home to eat and for a short nap. He wasn’t due back to the station until 2:30 p.m. He recalled waking to the sound of a phone ringing and his wife telling him to get to the station right away. In a daze, he heard the unthinkable, that President Kennedy had been shot in an open convertible as he “motorcaded through Dallas.” No sooner had he walked through the door of the studio did the station manager, Eddy Joseph, hand him a roll of wire copy and told him to start reading, that they would feed him the copy. Nolan only had the position five months. Sitting behind the mic after this horrible national incident would make even a long-time newsman extremely nervous. And then, off of the wire came the unthinkable, Nolan said. “FLASH! President John F. Kennedy is dead.” That afternoon, Nolan kept reading what came over the wire. The next day, he recalled how the station played sacred music and continuous reports from Dallas, Washington and Niagara Falls. The station joined with the Mutual Radio Network to report what followed and about the president’s funeral. How he, and every American, watched President Lyndon Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One as Mrs. Kennedy observed, how John John saluted the casket.

A few years later, 1965, Niagara Falls was the subject of a news story, Nolan said. Niagara Falls had long been a honeymoon destination and a site for eccentric adventurers. It also was noted in a Sunday newspaper that this impressive natural site was crumbling and would collapse. Nolan searched for named sources and found it only said geologists and engineers, but didn’t name anyone specifically. Congressional inquiries were made and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted studies. Eventually, the story was no longer covered, but it had impacted the region.

In 1966, Nolan began working for WKBN-TV in Youngstown, Ohio and then in 1968, he was hired by WMAQ-TV as a summer replacement writer, a position that was made permanent in the fall. He wrote for pioneering female anchor Jorie Lueloff. Later, when working during a midnight newscast, he worked with a young female producer named Lucyna Migala.

He was on the 19th floor of the NBC newsroom in 1969 when Niagara Falls was in the news again. The wire services were reporting that The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was “shutting down the American Falls of Niagara.” They were going to construct a damn to divert the water away from the vulnerable part of the falls, this would hopefully prevent future rock slides and erosion. Nolan wasn’t given the opportunity to cover it, but he still remembers that it “was a hell of a story at the time.” They actually shut down the falls to conduct tests and extend its existence.

His most visible job was delivering a nightly commentary on the 10 p.m. news on Channel 5 in Chicago 1978-1981.

Numerous other stories are featured in Nolan’s book. Stories that create a brief portrait of the people and events of the past. There’s mention of the disappearance of Rosemary Kennedy, the Stateville Prison Riot, stories about Bobby Rush and Jimmy Hoffa and then there are two stories about men and circumstances. About a stutterer being framed and the ironic nature of war.

“One story that I covered was about a lawyer who had a pro-bono client who was accused of murder. The client had horrible speech stuttering, but the lawyer found out that his client could sing his responses. The kid was from the west side of Chicago in the 1970s. The case was overturned in an appeal,” said Nolan.

As for the story of the ironic nature of war, Nolan said the setting was a battlefield in Europe at the end of World War II. John Rossi who owned the House of Bertini Restaurant on Wells Street told Nolan a story about Rossi being assigned to an engineering battalion on D-Day in 1944 and how he landed in France on Utah beach.

His unit was responsible for cutting hedgerows that separated the farms in that region of France.

Rossi said, “We saw a lot of aerial combat and often engaged the enemy when planes were shot down. One day Tully from Michigan (who was in his unit) who had been on his high school track team was chasing a pilot who was shot down. Rossi said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Tully huggy the German pilot. They had gone to high school together and were both on the track team.”

Turns out that the pilot’s father was an engineer who came to the U.S. to work in the auto industry before the war. The family returned to Germany. Tully’s friend went to college and later joined the Luftwaffe. The pilot was taken as a prisoner of war. That encounter may have been the one factor to save both men’s lives.

Nolan is retired now, working on the promotion of his book and enjoying time with his family. Asked what he thinks of television broadcasters today, he replied, “I think there’s too much talk, they need to get out and cover the news.”


Guest Blog Post – A Twist in the Tale by Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land


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Discerning readers will note upon reading MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER that my second book since taking over the MURDER, SHE WROTE series features a twist ending, as do many of my books. Call it the influence of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents on me when I was growing up. But I’ve long found nothing more satisfying than a jaw dropping reveal that sticks with you long after you first found your heart in your mouth. So in honor of that, and my own stab at such in MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER, here’s a list of some of the greatest twist endings ever.

9780451489302THE USUAL SUSPECTS: The moment when Chazz Palminteri’s customs agent Dave Kujan drops his coffee cup after studying the back-office wall Kevin Spacey’s Verbal Kint has been facing for much of the movie remains the benchmark against which all other shocking twists will be compared. Outside, as Verbal completes his incredible metamorphosis into Keyser Soze, we realize we’ve been conned; that the metaphorical devil isn’t just real, he’s loose. It was right there in front of us the whole time but, like all great twists, we never saw it coming.

THE SIXTH SENSE: Everyone seems to have a different moment when they realized Bruce Willis was one of the dead people Haley Joel Osment’s tortured young boy could see, but whenever that might’ve been it’s sure to have sent a chill sliding up your spine. The later the better, of course, because figuring it out too early is like getting the punch line before the joke is finished. M. Night Shyamalan’s brilliant misdirection makes us think we saw things that weren’t there, concealing the twist, for most anyway, until much closer to the end than the beginning.

THE STING: The film’s director George Roy Hill famously said that you can’t make a movie about con men without conning the audience. Well, all great twist endings are cons but this one was wondrously elaborate and a straight kick in the pants to those in the audience convinced they had everything figured out. Making us think the heroes are dead only to reveal they’re not makes for the perfect finish to a perfect film, much imitated but never equaled.

ARLINGTON ROAD: The sleeper in the group. Since relatively few know the movie, so no spoilers here. I’ll just say that the film’s slow, relentlessly suspenseful build makes us think we’re watching one thing when we’re actually watching something else entirely. I saw the film in a crowded theater and the moment in the end when a character says to Jeff Bridges’ tortured terrorism professor, “Michael, the only one who doesn’t belong here is you,” you could feel the audience lose its collective breath. A stunner that sticks with you long after you leave the theater.

THE CHASER: The classic short story by John Collier remains a subtle study in inevitability, all show and no tell since it’s comprised almost entirely of dialogue. A young man who enters a potion shop gets considerably more than he bargains for—at least he will eventually—after purchasing for mere pennies an elixir that will make the woman of his dreams love him. The twist lies in the fact that the price is so low because those who purchase it always come back for the chaser of the title: a much more expensive, and deadly, potion held in a different case. The young man never realizes that, of course, even when the professorial figure behind the counter bids him farewell with “Au revoir.” Until we meet again.

THE GLASS EYE: This installment so typical of Alfred Hitchcock Presents features a penny-pinching, lonely woman who finds herself obsessed with a ravishing ventriloquist for the joy he brings into her life. Wanting to prolong the feeling, she begs to meet her crush, leading to a shattering denouement no one could possibly have seen coming. Ever the master of misdirection in his films, Hitchcock similarly relished leaving us utterly shocked in the short form penned by the likes of Academy Award winner Sterling Silliphant.

TO SERVE MAN: The brilliant Rod Serling’s ending is right there in the title of this titular Twilight Zone episode, thanks to the double meaning that nobody sees or gets, not until the moment when the episode’s hero is boarding a space ship bound for a distant planet along with the rest of the world’s top leaders. The title actually refers to a book one of the aliens leaves behind to tempt and taunt the world. And its translation should have been obvious, but wasn’t.

DEMON WITH THE GLASS HAND: The classic Harlan Ellison penned Outer Limits episode features a lone human at war with aliens amid a sprawling warehouse complex while trying to find the missing fingers to complete his glass hand. Each finger brings that computerized appendage closer to explaining who he is and what he’s doing there. But the reveal imparted when the final finger is in place is one we never could have seen coming and is all the more perfect as a result.

THE SWIMMER: The brilliant short story by John Cheever, made into a surreal film by Frank Perry, features a super successful businessman on a shattering odyssey through affluent suburbia, uncovering the truth about his past, and present, through dips in his neighbors’ backyard pools as he makes his way home. It’s a slow burn that ignites in a final flashpoint when the character of Ned Merrill (played brilliantly in the film by Burt Lancaster) finally gets back to his house on the hill.

MEMENTO: Few films have ever come together better in the final moment than Christopher Nolan’s ground-breaking shocker about a man whose short-term memory only extends five or so minutes. He tattoos cue cards all over his body to keep track of his life, which doesn’t stop everyone he meets from conning him. Then, in the final fadeout, he cons himself to the pitch perfect voiceover (for a film that unveils in reverse fashion), “Where was I?”

Those are my choices. What about yours? Leave your suggestion(s) in the comment box below and I’ll respond with my thoughts!

Guest Blog Post–I Cannot Tell A Lie By Victoria Thompson


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Our guest today is Victoria Thompson, author of the bestselling Gaslight Mystery Series.  Her new book, City of Secrets, is the second in her new Counterfeit Lady Series, which releases on November 13.  She’s thrilled to have this opportunity to tell you all about the new series.

City of SecretsEveryone knows it’s wrong to lie.  It’s even one of the Ten Commandments. Except… Well, let’s face it, we all lie, at least a little. We lie to avoid hurting people’s feelings (Does this make me look fat?).  We lie to save ourselves (We can’t have Thanksgiving at your house. We already promised to take the kids to DisneyWorld.).  We lie because we feel guilty (I’d love to help you stuff those envelopes.). Everybody lies, as Dr. House used to say every week on his TV show. So why did I create a character who does not lie?

Obviously, because I’m insane.  When I started my Gaslight Mystery Series back in 1999, I gave one of the characters a quirk that proved troublesome, so I decided not to do that in the Counterfeit Lady Series.  Then Gideon Bates announced (quite without my permission) that he never lies.

This seemed like a really neat quirk for him to have because he falls in love with a con artist, Elizabeth Miles, who hardly ever tells the truth. But do you know how difficult it is to write a character who never lies? Who tells people they look fat and that he just doesn’t want to suffer through Thanksgiving at your house, and who simply refuses to help stuff the envelopes? How can we even like him? This became especially troublesome when Gideon is forced to help Elizabeth with a con.

Of course Elizabeth only does cons now to help those in need of justice, but even a con done for a good cause requires a certain amount of lying.  Gideon absolutely can’t help with that, because even if he tried, he’d be terrible at it. Does this cause friction between Gideon and Elizabeth? You bet it does.  Does it even come between them and threaten their relationship?  Does it actually cause them to break their engagement? Well, probably.

So how does an honest man reconcile himself to life with a professional liar?  That’s only one of the questions I deal with in City of Secrets. I also cover blackmail and a few other topics. Please let me know what you think—and you can lie to spare my feelings!


“This is a suspenseful and twisty story guaranteed to bate breaths and engage readers until the wee hours. Fans …will welcome the addition of another strong woman to the ranks of early-twentieth-century crime solvers.”



Bio:  Edgar®  and Agatha nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Gaslight Mystery Series, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt. Her latest, Murder on Union Square, was a May 2018 release.  City of Lies was the first book in her new Counterfeit Lady Series, and it came out in paperback in October 2018. The second book in the series, City of Secrets, will come out on November 13. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook Many Genres/One Craft. Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master’s program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog.


Elizabeth Miles knows that honesty isn’t always the best policy when it comes to finding justice.  

Elizabeth has discovered that navigating the rules of high society is the biggest con of all. She knows she can play the game, but so far, her only success is Priscilla Knight, a dedicated young suffragist recently widowed for the second time. Her beloved first husband died in a tragic accident and left her with two young daughters — and a sizable fortune.  While she was lost in grief, her pastor convinced her she needed a man to look after her and engineered a whirlwind courtship and hasty marriage to fellow parishioner Endicott Knight.  Now, less than nine months later, Endicott is dead in what appears to be another terrible accident.

Everyone is whispering, but Priscilla confides to Elizabeth that’s the least of her troubles. She’d believed Endicott was wealthy, too, but her banker is telling her she has no money left and that her house has been mortgaged. He’s also hinted at a terrible scandal and refuses to help.  Priscilla doesn’t know where to turn.

Priscilla stands to lose everything and Elizabeth is determined not to let that happen; but as always, Elizabeth walks a fine line between using her unusual talents and revealing her own scandalous past.  Elizabeth soon discovers that Endicott’s death was anything but accidental and that revealing the truth could threaten much more than Priscilla’s finances.  To save her new friend’s future  – and possibly her own – Elizabeth, along with her honest-to-a fault beau Gideon delve into the sinister secrets someone would kill to keep.


Blog Tour – Listening to my Characters by Kat Martin & Excerpt From Wait Until Dark


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Photo by Juan Carlo, Ventura County Star

No question, writing dialogue in a novel can be tricky.  Each character has a unique voice distinct from the others in the book.

Since I’ve never been particularly good at description, letting the characters tell the story is my favorite way to craft a novel.

Wait Until Dark 200x300Of course there has to be narration, ways to move the story forward and set the scene, and different writers use different techniques, sometimes a single character’s actions and observations, or just a majority of narrative to tell the tale.

But I like dialog.  It gives me a chance to get right into the character’s head.  I have to think like he or she does, I have to feel as if I am that person.

I go out of my way not to bore my readers with stuff like “How are you?”  “I am fine.” But once I get my characters talking, I let them talk.  I want to hear what they have to say as much as the reader!

I’m not really sure how a character’s voice gets into a writer’s head, but they all seem to be distinctly different.  Once I sat in front of the post office with the car windows rolled up and tried to hear the voice of every person walking out.

It was amazing!  No two imaginary voices sounded the same.  Strange but true.

So I hope when you read my novels you hear the voices of the people loud and clear.  In WAIT UNTIL DARK, my new digital novella, you’ll get to know Jonah Wolfe and April Vale, and meet the detectives, bounty hunters, and bodyguards in my upcoming Maximum Security series, starting with THE CONSPIRACY, out January 22nd.

Until then, I hope you have fun listening to the voices in my books and that you’ll look for WAIT UNTIL DARK and THE CONSPIRACY. Till next time, all best wishes and happy reading,





The sound of voices cut through the pounding in her head, dragging her from a dark void into the light of day.  As uniformed policemen streamed into the bedroom, April Vale looked down at her naked body and saw a sea of blood soaking the mattress.  A naked man lay beside her, a bullet hole in the center of his chest.

A scream tore free as she recognized David Dean, Mayor Rydell’s campaign manager.  Then strong arms hauled her upright and a wave of dizziness hit her, making her stomach roll.  One of the officers draped a blanket around her bare shoulders and they hustled her over to a chair by the window.

Fighting a fresh wave of nausea, April gripped the blanket, her body shaking head to foot.  “What…what’s happening?”  She didn’t realize her hands were being cuffed together in front of her until she heard metal clanking and cold bands of steel wrapped around her wrists.

“What’s your name?”  The room swarmed with policemen.  The one in front of her was stocky and balding, in his early forties.  A pair of EMTs rushed into the room and began working over the bloody man on the bed, but his eyes were open and staring at nothing and she knew he was already dead.

April swallowed the bile in her throat and fought to clear her head, but when she tried to remember where she was or how she got there, all she came up with was a blank.

“I don’t understand what’s happening,” she said, trying to keep the blanket around her.

“This will all go smoother if you cooperate,” the stocky policeman said. “Tell us your name.”

“I’m…I’m April.  April Vale.” She glanced over at David.  The hole in his chest seemed even bigger and bloodier than before.

“Can you tell us the name of the victim?”

Victim.  A thick lump rose in her throat, threatening to choke her.  “That…that’s David Dean.  We work for Mayor Rydell.”

A young officer with black hair slicked straight back from his forehead walked up.  “Looks like we’ve got the murder weapon, Sarge.  It was right there on the floor next to the lady’s purse.”

April frowned, her mind foggy again.  “Wait…wait a minute.  What’s going on?  I don’t understand.”  Her fingers tightened on the blanket, trying to keep it in place over her naked body. “I don’t know how I got here.  I don’t remember what happened.”

A gray haired man in a navy blue suit brought the gun over in a plastic bag.  She recognized the little .380 she carried for protection.

I’m Detective Sullivan.  Does this belong to you, Ms. Vale?”

She took a deep breath.  “I think it’s mine.  I have one like that.  I have a legal permit to carry.”

The EMTs began checking her over, her blood pressure, her vision, whether or not she had a concussion.

“We need to get her to the hospital,” one of them said, “have her checked out, get a blood sample.”

“Hospital?  I don’t want to go to the hospital.”

A female police officer walked up just then.  “We’ve cuffed your hands in front of you so you can hold onto the blanket.  If you cooperate, we’ll leave them that way.  If not, we’ll have to cuff them behind your back.”

She closed her eyes.  This couldn’t be happening.  “You think I shot him?  I don’t even know how I got here.”

The woman’s expression never changed.  “You need to go to the hospital.  We need to make sure you’re okay.  If you were drugged, it’ll show up in your tox screen.”

Tox screen.  Drugs. Her pistol and a dead man.

That’s when it began to sink in how much trouble she was in. That’s when April’s brain finally started working and she began to figure out what she needed to do–before things got a whole lot worse.


At the sound of the glass front door swinging open, Jonah Wolfe looked up to see a tall, leggy redhead walk into the office.

“I hope she’s looking for me.”  Jason Maddox, one of the country’s top bail enforcement agents and one of Jonah’s best friends, had an eye for beautiful women.  This one definitely met Jase’s exacting standards.

But being a former undercover police officer, Jonah noticed more than her stunning face and figure.  Her hands were shaking as she approached the receptionist desk and her face was pale.  He wondered what kind of trouble the lady was in.

“May I help you?”  The receptionist, Mindy Stewart, shoved up the tortoiseshell glasses perched on the end of her nose.  She was petite and cute, and smart enough not to date any of the confirmed bachelors who worked at Maximum Security.

“My name is April Vale.  I’m looking for Jonah Wolfe.”

When Maddox groaned his disappointment, Jonah’s focus sharpened on the redhead.  He rose from behind his desk and started toward the front of the office.  A waiting area with a dark red tufted leather sofa and matching chairs, oak coffee and end tables, gave the place a western feel that perfectly suited the misfit Texans who worked there.

“I’m Wolfe,” Jonah said when he reached her.  “What can I do for you?”  His gaze ran over her, taking in her spectacular curves.  He couldn’t help hoping she needed him for something a lot more intriguing than his skills as a private detective.

He might have smiled, would have if a TROUBLE sign wasn’t stamped in the middle of the pretty lady’s forehead.

“My name is April Vale.  Thank you for seeing me.

“No need to thank me, Ms. Vale.  I haven’t done anything yet.”

“I’m hoping you will.”  She had the face of an angel and legs that went on forever.  But she was a redhead and all that fiery hair just ramped up the warning signs flashing in her big blue eyes.

“Is there somewhere we can speak in private?” April asked.

“Conference room.  Follow me.” As he led her down the hall, she caught an appreciative glance from Jax Ryker and Dante Romero, the only other guys currently in the office, but she didn’t seem to notice.

“This way.”  Jonah held open the door to a glass-walled chamber with a long oak table seating twenty. April walked in and he waited for her to take a seat.

She smoothed the navy blue pencil skirt she was wearing with a pair of sky high heels.  She looked good.  Classy but not completely untouchable.   “As I said, I appreciate your seeing me on such short notice.”

“Not a problem.”  Jonah leaned back in his chair.  “All right, April, why don’t you tell me why you’re here?”

She took a deep breath, drawing his attention to the full breasts he’d been doing his best to ignore.  Since he never mixed business with pleasure, he shoved the buzz of attraction he was feeling to the back of his brain.

“I work for Mayor Rydell,” April said.  “Currently I’m….  I was just released from police custody a short time ago, Mr. Wolfe. That’s…that’s why I’m here.”

Jonah straightened in his chair.  “You were under arrest?”

“Officially, I haven’t been charged yet.  But the charge could be murder.”

Jesus.  He hadn’t seen that one coming.  Now she really had his attention.  Jonah leaned toward her.  “So who did you kill, Ms. Vale?”

Kat Martin Bio

 New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Her last novel, BEYOND CONTROL, hit both big lists … NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST as well as the USA TODAY BEST-SELLING BOOKS LIST. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.




For November, Kat Martin is giving away a copy of AGAINST THE WIND to two winners (winner’s choice of eBook or print format).

WAIT UNTIL DARK — e-book went on sale Nov. 1st, but available for pre-order now!

Don’t miss the thrilling prequel to New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin’s brand-new series, Maximum Security!




Apple Link

Book Review – You Lucky Dog by Debra Finerman


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Title: You Lucky Dog

Author: Debra Finerman

Publisher: Stewart’s Grove Press

On the Shelves: June 6, 2018

Format: Paperback

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Price: $8.99 paperback, Kindle: $2.99

Pages: 226

Setting: LA

Just when Jake and Emma begin their life together, the unexpected happens. Living in LA is hard enough. Add El Nino and you have dangerous driving circumstances. While most people avoid being on the road during a downpour, Jake agrees to take Emma’s Westie to the vet.

Fate steps in and one careless move lands Jake in an unusual situation. His spirit leaves his body and enters the adorable form of the dog. Not sure how two spirits are occupying the furry body, but they are.

Talk about challenges, Emma’s husband is no longer human, yet he retains the experiences and knowledge of his former self. He has no other choice, but to go on existing as a dog. There is an exception and that is he can talk. Of course, this will be a skill that will cause a lot of heads to turn. What are the obstacles? That would be everything. They can no longer be husband and wife. He cannot communicate in public. He can’t drive, walk in parks without a leash and then there’s the dog-to-dog issues. Let’s not go there.

There are also the advantages. He doesn’t have to work and everything is done for him. He can also find a way to help Emma make ends meet.

You Lucky Dog is a light humorous version of a “what if.” Anything is possible in life and death. We don’t have any answers unless we have a near-death experience. This book puts Emma’s husband in an unforgettable situation and makes you believe it has actually happened. It makes you think of all the things we grow accustom to, which we take for granted, and that they can disappear with a simple human error. How adaptable one would have to become to accept their fate.

The ending seemed to come on quickly and not what I expected. I really wanted to know what happened to the spirit of the dog. Cute book, though, I just needed a few more answers. I don’t want to offer a spoiler, but I can’t help thinking Jake’s spirit was waiting for his body to heal and entered Emma’s dog to continue to function even in the simplest level of existence. Dog lovers will get a kick out of this book.

Three adorable dogs out of five

Denise Fleischer

Oct. 21, 2018



Blog Tour: Kat Martin Tells us about her new series: Maximum Security


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Wait Until Dark 200x300


WAIT UNTIL DARK is a digital novella that introduces my new Maximum Security series, set around a private security company in Dallas, Texas.  The story gives you a sneak peak at the private detectives, bail enforcement agents, and bodyguards who work at The Max.

If you read BEYOND DANGER, Beau Reese’s story, you might recall meeting Chase Garrett, the owner of Maximum Security, where female detective, Cassidy Jones, was employed.   The first full-length novel in the series, Chase’s story, THE CONSPIRACY, will be out January 22 of next year–just in time for Valentine’s Day!

In WAIT UNTIL DARK, Jonah Wolfe, a private investigator, has a knack for spotting trouble. When April Vale storms into his office, all his warning signs flash neon red. April’s been accused of murder–but has no memory of how she awoke in her coworker’s bed, drenched in his blood, the deadly bullet fired from April’s own gun.  April must convince Jonah to help her prove her innocence and the clock is ticking.  The real killer is out there–and if they don’t find him before it’s too late, April may be his next victim.

I hope you enjoy WAIT UNTIL DARK and that you’ll watch for Chase Garrett and Harper Winston in THE CONSPIRACY.

Warmest wishes for the upcoming holiday season, Kat.





For October, Kat Martin is giving away a copy of AGAINST THE NIGHT to two winners (winner’s choice of eBook or print format).

WAIT UNTIL DARK — eBook on sale November 1st, but available for pre-order now!

Don’t miss the thrilling prequel to New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin’s brand-new series, Maximum Security!




Apple Link



Google Play